From Architecture, SCANning Art

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To scan is to glance and examine the particulars of an object or a condition. Yet it is also to scrutinise and observe sweepingly, as a large expanse. In summary, these are the actions and ambitions of Pedro Font, Bruce Irwin, Lola and Juanjo Ruiz – four architects based in London with direct connections to Spain and candid interest in Latin America. In parallel to their separate and independent design practice, they have joined forces to cross the line of architectural function in order to explore the possibilities of uncommitted art expression. SCAN is a digital platform that promotes the work of emerging Spanish and Latin American artists. Different from art historians and academic theorists, their approach is coloured not only by their immersion in architecture but also by their concern with young talent.

In this conversation, Pedro, Bruce, Lola and Juanjo elaborate on their views and incentives. They suggest that art surpasses fixed categories of style, authorship and value, transgressing the rules of the establishment and the financial impositions of the market.

What are the drivers of SCAN?
SCAN is powered by our fervour to the art produced by emerging Spanish and Latin American artists. We feel energised by the participation and creativity of a diverse and growing group of artists, collectors, and lovers of art whom we encounter online. The diversity of talent is amazing. We are four individuals willing to participate by disseminating this body of work. At heart, SCAN is a kind of love letter, an online fanzine that creates access to young talent.

Who benefits from your efforts and how do you relate to the art market?
Our work directly benefits artists, collectors, gallerists and the interested art-loving public. Because SCAN is a selective platform – curated by us – the work is presented in a positive context. The artists benefit from exposure to audiences across the web and they can use our network to connect and learn from other artists. SCAN acts as an agency of interrelation and education. The number of images available online is vast and incomprehensible, so SCAN acts as a filter and a conduit, highlighting, contextualising and informing.

We think of SCAN as a kind of navigational tool, or star-chart, for finding ways to some exciting places, and directing interest to emerging rather than to established, so-called ‘blue chip’, artists. In recent years, the art market has become quite polarised. At one end, some work is selling for unbelievable and ever rising prices; and at the other, there is a lack of confidence in budding artists. This is a direct result of the years of financial crisis, but it also represents a lack of bravery. This constitutes a challenge and an opportunity. SCAN injects oxygen into the market by researching and exposing valuable art. To this end, we also organise a variety of events and projects – competitions, pop-up curated exhibitions, promotions and collaborations between artists and spaces.

The four of you are architects. What made you turn to art?
Why have we gone over to the d’art side? How delightfully Star Wars it sounds! Our foreground is architecture, but we all have some background in art, either through education or through the production of visual forms of communication. Visual communication is essential to both the formation and the working life of an architect. We ourselves make images and drawings, spaces and buildings, and engage with colour, light, materiality, production, collaboration. Architecture is directly engaged with the world, in how we live as individuals and in society, so we have many tools and issues in common.

How does architecture inform the art that you promote?
Probably we have a particular interest in skilfulness and materiality, in dexterity and deft handling of a set of ideas in space. Architecture must be demanding in material terms, in the detail. This does make us look very closely at how things are made, assembled, and processed. Similar to art, architecture is concerned with proportion, composition and structure.

In your view, what are the main differences between art and architecture?
Architecture has as its main intention safety and well-being, in the physical sense of its occupants. Art does not have to worry about this, in fact challenging and producing a degree of discomfort can be part of the task. Architecture, more or less, always has a client, and it is produced in orchestration with planners, builders, even neighbours and neighbourhoods.

Art does not necessarily operate in this way, though at times, for commissions for instance, it may require to do so. Architecture is always a collaborative and time-released creation. It aspires to create order and clarity – it is not so great, for instance to be unable to figure out how to get into a building or how to find an exit. In that regard, art and architecture are almost opposites. Differently, art is invited and expected to problematise, question, and provoke. This is what is so breath-taking, so stimulating in art, whether contemporary or classical.

Define “art” in a sentence …
Pedro: Art is the critical materialization of imagination, thought or emotion in space and time.
Bruce: Art is a resonant expression of experience, filtered by an artist’s ability, which somehow speaks to individuals in a language they perceive as their own.
Lola: Art is the most intimate act of exhibitionism.
Juanjo: An artist is a CREATOR expressing his personal vision of the world. Then every spectator is a transformer, a filter that make this creation to be part of himself. ART is this process of sharing those visions and feelings.

Have you identified any themes, trends or common concerns among the artists that you promote?
The artists we promote represent a diverse and often highly individual range of interests and practices. The possibilities and varieties are boundless. Therefore, most artists fit into more than one category, or defy fitting in any at all. For example, many artists dealing with technology also are dealing with issues of control or capital systems. We have identified some wide trends, including the interest in “critical histories” often political and social; “dialogues with artistic and cultural traditions related to geometry, abstraction and form; “critical landscapes”, concerned with environmental and ethical questions; and “technological investigations”, focused on media and attention.

You promote Spanish as well as Latin-American art. What are the main differences and similarities between these two geographical zones?
The differences we see between the two are many but are often local or individual – Latin America is a very large category. Spain and Latin America share recent and ancient colonial, political, religious and economic histories, and population movements in both directions, often in one lifetime. Inevitably, there are strong parallels in the arts and visual culture. The common Latin influence surfaces in aspects such as language and even religious beliefs, but Latin America has a strong and independent indigenous cultural, artistic and geometric tradition that has shaped its art. Today a shared language is not to be underestimated as it is a powerful media channel – we share films, television productions, internet content and memes. There are great opportunities for synergies and creative production between the two.

How do you curate the artists that you promote?
SCAN feeds from the network of artists online, suggestions of friends, clusters from universities, and independent studios. We dedicate a lot of time to visit galleries, research and contact artists. We appreciate work that is on a trajectory, where the artists’ path is somehow evident. When an artist is committed to the project, to the practice, it is visible; it sparks. We not always agree so we discuss, creating arguments around a piece or a body of work. This is usually enlightening and provoking. Our frictions lead to new discoveries.

What kind of art excites you?
SCAN is excited by engagement, skill, process, enthusiasm, belief, and equally by the opposites of these. We are excited by links, parallel dimensions and networks, and how things are made and constructed. Clarity is also exciting, whether this is instinctual, intellectual or carefully studied. But we also like to be surprised and unnerved. We get excited by work that changes the way we perceive things, or that inspires a sense of wonder and surprise. It is amazing to be able to challenge given perceptions, to turn the world upside down for a moment, or more.

by Christian Parreno

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